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Minerva Ginecologica 2006 December;58(6):445-57


language: Italian

Infertility: a global perspective

Benagiano G., Bastianelli C., Farris M.

Dipartimento di Scienze Ginecologiche Perinatologia e Puericultura Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Roma


Infertility has always existed; however, today it has a different meaning because the possibility exists, not only to treat it in some three quarters of all cases, but also, in a number of instances, to prevent it. At the same time, this improved scenario created a number of important new issues concerning public health policies and the social impact of infertility; these issues can be summarized with two words: equity and ethics. Indeed, there are intolerable differences in access to infertility care, depending on the social-economic status, as well as the country in which a couple lives. It is generally believed that, overall, in the general population a persistent form of infertility affects some 7-8% of all couples; in Europe the prevalence of infertility has been estimated at around 14%. There are important regional differences in the incidence and causes of sterility. Whereas the best known factor in western countries is an increase in the age in which women attempt to conceive, in Africa, the most important cause is represented by sexually transmitted infections. Over the last fifty years there have been major break-throws in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, although it must be stressed that the importance and validity of therapy must be in all cases evaluated against expectant management. This is because in couples without clear signs of functional or organic pathology, conception will occur spontaneously in between 80 and 90% of the cases. At the same time, if attempts to conceive fail over a period of three years, even in women 30 years or younger, the probability of pregnancy decreases to about 40%. Finally, it must be stressed that advances in assisted reproductive technology have created not only important successes, but also significant ethical problems: on the one hand, the debate is open on the limits of artificial interventions in the field of reproduction; on the other the possibility exists that a partner may “impose” an infertility on the other.

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